It could be called a dwelling, a domicile, a house or a residence, but when we call something a home we invoke emotions of comfort food, family, holidays and warm feelings. Home is an emotionally loaded word. My genealogical searches are scattered with homes that lead a path from Germany, England, France to Massachusetts, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, Illinois and on to Kansas. All those houses were homes to part of my family. I hope to share next week the story of another home in our family that holds special feelings, but for this week I want to share these three homesteads.
The homestead at the top is the William and Martha Chenoweth homestead. The farm and house no longer exist. They were destroyed the federal government to make way for Camp Ellis in 1942 during the war effort. William and Martha Chenoweth moved there sometime in the 1850s with their children. William and Martha were my 3rd great grandparents, both born in Ohio, married in Indiana and died in Illinois. The family in the picture is that of their son, Elias Chenoweth, his wife Permelia Jane Ellis Chenoweth and their children. Martha Chenoweth appears in this photo so it most likely was taken after William’s death in 1884 and obviously before Martha’s in 1898. Five generations of my family had, at one time or another, lived on this homestead. I’ve had my dad sketch out the layout of the farm. He placed the buildings, house, orchards, lane, sawmill and everything on the map to give us perspective as well as leave a record.
The stories of this homestead weave a very interesting tapestry. Dad climbed the windmill on this farm when he was only two years old. My grandmother coaxed him down after awhile and Dad still remembers watching the blades rotate on the windmill. He later became a pilot and I always wonder if that wasn’t the precursor to his love of flying.
The house had a second story covered porch above the kitchen window. Dad and his brother, K.C. Chenoweth, thought it would be great fun to make parachutes for cats. They attached the handkerchiefs to the cats and dropped them from the upstairs porch. The fun came to a quick end when Grandma suddenly saw a cat dropping past the kitchen window while she was baking. The parachutes didn’t impress her!
One of the barns on the farm was a design called a “bank barn”. The barn was built into the bank and had buttresses to keep the lower wall from pushing out. The buttresses were made of concrete and very rough. Dad and Uncle K.C. thought sliding down the buttresses would be a great recreational activity, but they tried it with new blue jeans on. Again, Grandma was less than impressed with their decision making!
When my Grandpa Elzie was a young man and living in this home, his brother came home a little too late one winter evening. He thought he had successfully sneaked into the house without tipping his hat. Uncle Arthur was cold though and he stirred up the stove to warm himself up. Apparently he was a little too good at stirring up the fire as a chimney fire broke out and gave away the secret of his late arrival.
The old homestead was full of so many stories and memories and I’m sorry the only way I got to see it was through the mind’s eye of my family members.
The second home, Elias and Permelia Chenoweth’s new home in Table Grove, IL was quiet impressive. Elias, my 2nd great grandfather, is shown standing in the yard with his daughter. He was a conservative man when it came to business dealings and from what I have read, was pretty humble. A fire broke out in the house not long after it was built. Elias and Permelia survived the fire, but never rebuilt the house. Permelia felt the fire was God’s way of telling them they were too proud of the home. Story is there is an identical home to it still surviving in Table Grove; both built at the same time. This picture was taken sometime prior to his death in 1915. Permelia died in 1911. Most likely this photo predates her death also. It looks to be a beautiful house and with my love of old houses, I surely would have liked to see the details of it.
The third home was that of my grandparents, Elzie and Vera Chenoweth, west of Macomb, IL. This is the house my dad and uncle moved to when they were young boys and where they lived until they were married. My dad and mom moved to this house in 1968 until August of 1970 while they were building a new house. Grandpa and Grandma’s house was very special. I can close my eyes and still see the built in glass-doored bookcases, the beautiful wooden stairs, the secret upstairs porch and the attic that seemed to hold many magical things. This is the home I remember going to for Christmas and sleeping upstairs in the big feather bed with my sister and cousins. This home always smelled of freshly baked cookies, homemade noodles and beef. It felt and looked like love.
Houses are simply dwellings; wood, brick or other material bound together to provide shelter. Homes are magical places where families share the joys and sorrows of life with one another. If only the walls could talk then the stories we have wouldn’t be limited to those we managed to write down.